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Law enforcement offers holiday safety tips

With Christmas approaching, many people will be out and about shopping for gifts, decorating, and going home for the holidays. It’s a time for cheer and good will, but local law enforcement officials warn citizens to be safe while enjoying the season.

“The Statesboro Police Department encourages all citizens to be vigilant in crime prevention and crime awareness during the holiday season,” said Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner.  “Statesboro often experiences an increase in thefts from entering autos during this time of year.  Officers will be increasing patrol in high volume shopping areas in Statesboro in an effort to deter criminal activity and reduce the number of incidents.”

One of the most basic points of advice is “lock up,” said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins.  When shopping, keep your vehicle locked and place purchases in the trunk, out of view, he said.

“One of the most simple and under-utilized steps a citizen can take is to lock vehicles while they are unoccupied,” Turner said.  “This doesn’t deter all criminals but it does prevent those looking to commit crimes of opportunity when finding an unlocked vehicle in a parking lot.”

A large number of entering autos are “non-forced,” which means that the means of entry into the vehicle was not secured at the time of the crime, he said.

Keeping valuables, such as purses, bags, wallets, phones and electronics out of view is another way citizens can reduce the chances they will be a target of a crime.  “All valuables should be secured out of sight or removed from the vehicle,” he said. “Wrapped packages in vehicles should be treated as valuables, as criminals will often assume the packages contain high value items.”

Thieves will stake out your home as well, Akins said.  Leaving hints of valuable purchases, such as electronics boxes left in the trash, can tempt would-be thieves who may break in to steal those items, he said.

Report any suspicious behavior and keep a watch out for neighbors who may not be home, he said. “And please, don’t post on Facebook that you will be gone for the holidays.”

Being aware of your surroundings is strongly encouraged, Turner said. “Look for any suspicious behavior.  Persons looking in vehicle windows or checking vehicle door handles should be reported to law enforcement immediately.”

College and university students often leave their apartments for the holidays, and that can invite trouble, Akins said. If leaving for an extended period of time, “Take all your valuables with you if possible,” he said. “Record your serial numbers and keep them somewhere besides your apartment.”  That information can be recorded at https://reportit.leadsonline.com, and will enable police to help locate stolen items, he said.

Having a trusted neighbor keep watch over your home is also a good idea, he said.

Identity fraud is also a danger that increases during the holiday season, Turner said. “This is also the time of year to be checking financial statements on a weekly, if not daily, basis.  Identity fraud increases during the holidays and continues through to tax season.”

Check bank statements, checking accounts and credit card statements often to ensure that they have not been compromised.  Do not give out personally identifying information (social security number, date of birth, etc.) to any person or company soliciting information over the phone, email or internet, he said.

“Statesboro has recently received four complaints of a person calling citizens and representing himself as working for a credit-reporting company and asking for personal information and financial information,” he said.  “If you receive any unsolicited calls of this nature, hang up and contact the Statesboro Police Department” or the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over your home.

Both the Statesboro police department (912-764-9911) and Bulloch County sheriff’s office (dispatch number is 912-764-1771) offer house and business checks at no charge.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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